Chris Markomanolakis (Uganda)

Christopher Markomanolakis graduated from Towson University in 2012 with degrees in Political Science and Metropolitan. He served in the United States Peace Corps as a community health volunteer for three years (2014-2017). During the first two years, he worked on a wide variety of projects/programs including water sanitation, youth empowerment, HIV/AIDS awareness, increasing the capacity of health care providers, and many more. After the first two years, Chris became an Assistant Project Manager with Catholic Relief Service’s Accelerating Stunting Reduction Program which focused on reducing stunting by providing pregnant women with nutrition counseling and giving them to tools and skills needed to maintain a home garden. Chris’ responsibilities included facilitating seminars, distributing inputs, designing and constructing solar dryers, and reporting on project indicators. Now Chris has begun studying to earn a Masters of Public Management from the University of Maryland. He has been rewarded several fellowships including the TIAA Nonprofit Leaders Fellowship, Coverdell Fellowship, and the Global Philanthropy Service Fellowship. During the winter of 2017, he worked as a consultant with the Grameen Foundation’s Bankers without Borders and the Wildlife Trust of India(WTI). His team conducted a quantitative analysis to measure the WTI’s impact on female empowerment and conservation within the Valmiki Tiger Reserve. With June just around the corner, Chris is eager to begin training with The Advocacy Project and help the Gulu Disabled Persons Union promote sustainable WASH practices in Gulu, Uganda. After returning from his fellowship over the summer, Chris discussed with AP the impacts the fellowship had on him. "AP gave me the opportunity to stand on my own two legs. Graduate school loves to teach theory and best practices, but AP allowed me to take those lessons and apply them in real life. It was the best ten weeks of my life and it gave me the confidence to pursue a career in international development."

Why a latrine?

02 Jul

“Why a latrine?” It’s a simple question asked by a friend who shall remain nameless. “Couldn’t you dig a well or something? You know, something urgently needed?” I laughed it off. Obviously the point is valid: People – Water = Dead, however I want to use this blog post to explain how a latrine can alter a child’s life entirely.

Monica Ajok speaks in a very soft voice; so soft you have to lean in close to hear her speak, but it’s worth the effort to listen. She has a story to tell. I asked Monica what her favorite subject was in school. It’s a great icebreaker that adults have used on children since the dawn of public education. Most kids say recess or art. But Monica is not most kids and would not be contained by the rigidness of my question. She lists off English, Math, Science and Social Studies as her favorite subjects. How dare I assume she had only one! Monica aspires to be a nurse, to help sick people feel better. I told her that requires a lot of school, but that didn’t faze her. Here is a young girl who knows what she wants and is willing to work for it. There is something more to Monica than her love of studying and aspiration to heal people, she is disabled.  I hadn’t even noticed her leg until her mother told me.

The Advocacy Project

“Monica has a lot of challenges.  She cannot do a lot of things that other children can do.  When she gets home from school, she cannot fetch water.  She cannot clean.  She has difficulty moving; sometimes she comes home complaining that her leg is [burning].” But Monica’s mother was quick to counter these challenges with a resounding, “But she is just as smart as other children!”

Why a latrine? Before Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) constructed a latrine at Monica’s school, she had a daily choice between two terrible options. “Coming to school is easy, but I never went to the bathroom. I would either [hold it in] or walk home to use my own toilet.” A school day in Uganda is eight hours long just to put the first choice into perspective. Like most students in northern Uganda, Monica’s house is not exactly close to the school. “It takes me an hour to get home from school.” Just to be clear, a girl with a bad leg walked an hour to her house just to use the bathroom. That means it was another hour before she returned to class. I’ll let that sink in a bit before I tell you the good news…don’t worry, there is good news. Because of the latrine build by GDPU in 2017, Monica can now stay at school without worrying about stomach pains or a two hour hike to the bathroom. “Now my school has a clean toilet [with handrails]… there is soap and water to wash my hands so it’s easier for me to study. “

So why a latrine?   It may not be glamorous, but if it empowers more girls like Monica to reach their dreams then I think the question should be; why not a latrine?

Monica Ajok with a smile!


Find more pictures from my time in Uganda right here!

Posted By Chris Markomanolakis (Uganda)

Posted Jul 2nd, 2018


  • Corinne Cummings

    July 3, 2018


    Hey Chris. I happy this finally uploaded for you. Once again, your blog post thoughtfully tells a compelling story that makes the reader feel as if they are there with you. You have marvelous story-telling skills. Keep it coming! Monica sounds like a special young lady–thank you for sharing a moment of her life. It’s interesting how those living in more developed counties take privilege for granted, such as something as basic as a latrine. I love that Monica enjoys an array of school subjects, I sincerely hope she gets the opportunity to become a doctor. With the kind of willpower that she possesses, there is no doubt in my mind she will become a doctor down the line. Thank you for the excellent pictures, continue capturing those precious moments. I look forward to reading your next blog post, Chris.
    Best wishes, Corinne

  • Samantha Givens

    July 3, 2018


    Chris, this was a thoughtful and inspiring story. Thank you for sharing this beautiful remark of a young woman with dreams and aspirations, while facing challenges. This is a reminder to us why the “not-so-glamorous’ jobs as you mentioned, are incredibly important. Please keep us updated on Monica, she sounds like a beautiful human being!

  • Ali West

    July 3, 2018


    This post really helps emphasize the importance of this project and how something as simple as a toilet can great such a large and direct impact for students like Monica. Thank you for sharing and keep up the great work!

  • Princia Vas

    July 3, 2018


    This post genuinely made me happy and Monica’s story is a great example of determination and willpower despite such harsh circumstances. Thank you for sharing her story with us. More power to you, Chris!

  • Donna J Olson

    July 9, 2018


    What a wonderfully insightful post! It really highlighted the importance of proper facilities for education, especially for those with disabilities. Thank you for sharing Monica’s story and determination!

  • Karen

    July 11, 2018


    What a beautiful way to explain the importance and impact of this project, Chris! Reading Monica’s story reminds me how important it is to focus on the individual and the local perspective when doing development work. Thanks for sharing!

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